Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
I won't address training. However, FWIW, here are some thoughts on 'bonding':
Although I dislike the word and how it is often used, it is desirable to form a bond with your horse. However, that means you may need to give up some things YOU like so you can treat your horse the way HE likes. Horses bond to people they trust. Ultimately, there are no games for trust - only someone who does good things that the horse understands.
For example, for MY emotional pleasure, I wouldn't mind standing near my horse and scratching her back while she eats. It is a calm time of the day, the corral is clean, why not? Well, because horses do not enjoy being touched, particularly while eating. They understand, and thus BOND, with someone who gives them food and them leaves them to eat in peace.
A lot of times, horses LIKE someone who wants them to do 'reasonable' things. If I turn Mia toward a rail, or turn her 180 on a trail, she understands a tight turn. If I do it in the middle of an arena, she doesn't see the point in turning tight when there is all the room in the world. She will do it, but at some level she thinks I'm being anal. And anal is not good. I don't build a 'bond' by being anal.
So I try to structure things in ways where it makes sense for her. When possible, I try to avoid asking her to do things that seem stupid to her. She is willing to accept 'stupid' requests from me at times, but the more I do it, the less confidence she has in my judgment.
If we need to push thru some brush to go from point A to point B, she understands it. But wearing a tarp around myself would probably strike her as weird. Both can teach a horse to accept stuff on its sides and legs, but I prefer to teach her with brush while going somewhere.
Horses are hard to fool. I think they eventually figure out if someone is messing with their minds, and resent it. After all, do you like someone who messes with you? I don't think there are any games to building a long-term bond with a horse. In the end, they see past the games and judge a person by standards we would understand ourselves: Does this person care about me? Is he fair? Is he reasonable? Does he want good things to happen? Will he help me when I'm afraid, or hurt? Is he pushy, or rude?
All just IMHO. I'm a nobody rider with a sometimes skittish mare and a gelding who greatly prefers my daughter to me. I don't compete, sell DVDs, or even get asked for advice...
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."